We’re living through a real global crisis – a rare, epoch-changing event. And while we’re no strangers to 24/7 rolling news, the speed and pace of the Covid-19 pandemic is difficult to understand, let alone come to terms with.
The next three months will be challenging in ways few of us will have ever experienced, but once we’re through the worst there’s an opportunity for change – for good – and those that can adapt to a different world, will be able to thrive.
Businesses in particular have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and instigate change, and there are already signs some companies understand this. For example, Balenciaga and H&M are diverting resources to develop PPE equipment for frontline staff, while BrewDog – the occasionally controversial Scottish brewer – is manufacturing sanitiser, for free. Then there are food outlets – like Pret and McDonalds – who were offering NHS workers significant discounts on coffee, small but effective measures that make a difference and play well on social media. Times will be hard for these brands and businesses, but the fact they’re trying to do the right thing sits in stark contrast to misguided TV appearances from famous landlords or airline shareholders taking big dividends. What companies do now will stick with consumers in the future, we should learn from it.
Then there are the brands working to adapt their services to a changing world. We all laughed about Peloton last year, but who wouldn’t want to be enjoying a cycle around a virtual Alsace now? And hands up if you’re considering a beer subscription service.
But it isn’t just about takeaways and YouTube yoga clips, all sorts of companies and industries can adapt their services to a home-based audience. Universities, for example, can step even further into the space once occupied exclusively by the Open University and use their considerable resources to widen the scope for home-based learning to students and the permanently curious. Similarly, with museums closed for now, could this be an opportunity for them to follow in the footsteps of the excellent British Museum and invest in their digital offering – particularly given the diverse role they could play in educating children sitting at home?
Tech companies have an opportunity too. For many of us at the beginning of March, most of our work was likely still done via Outlook and phone, but Zoom, Teams and WebEx have become daily constants – ways to swap documents, make calls and chat with team members. For now, these services are the new ‘office’, so firms taking the opportunity to reduce prices, improve video and call quality, integrate news feeds and offer better document integration could make video conferences and cloud computer indispensable rather than merely useful.
Change is a scary thing, and these are frightening times, but it’s an opportunity for innovation too. And those that can work with the audiences and customers to adapt to change are the ones who’ll play a role in a resurgent world.
Simon Gill is an associate director at Camargue